T Nation

Today's Cool Tip

Today?s training tip comes from Eric Cressey:

Wait a Bit for Back Health

Would you believe that you’re actually shorter after a day on your feet than you are when you wake up in the morning? At night, there?s an inflow of fluid to the intervertebral discs. Once you’re up and about, the pressures affecting the spine change, and the fluid leaves the disc. Most of this outflow occurs in the hour after you rise.

The main problem with this daily change in spine length is that increased fluid content obviously makes the discs expand. In turn, the spine is much stiffer when you bend. Unfortunately, the muscles don’t do anything to compensate, so there?s markedly increased stress on the discs and ligaments. Body temperature is also lower upon rising, so range of motion (ROM) is compromised even further. As the day goes on and you move around more, body temperature increases and the fluid flows out of the disc, improving ROM and reducing ligament stress. McGill (2004) noted that in the morning, disc-bending and ligament stresses during forward flexion were 300% and 80% greater than when performed later in the day. Moreover, lumbar flexion ROM increases by 5-6? during this same time period.

The take-home message it to give your spine at least thirty minutes ? preferably longer ? to prepare for activity in the morning. This injury-prevention strategy isn’t just limited to lifting; you should also go out of your way to avoid early-morning stretching, especially in positions involving significant lumbar flexion.

Where does this sit with all the talk now of doing cardio first thing in the AM?
Very interesting and useful tip though.

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Thanks for the tip. Do you guys ever sleep?


Spike must sure help that.

You are right, the tip is very relevant to low back pain, and is a primary reason why people say, ’ I didn’t do anything to hurt my back, I just got up and bent over to… put on my pants, pick up the paper, get the soap, etc.

As Eric stated, the majority of this increased pressure will dissipate in the first hour that you are up, but the key is to avoid bending forward at the waist without maintaining the lumbar lordosis. If you can maintain the normal lumbar lordosis, the risk will be reduced.

Regarding morning cardio; walking, running, elliptical, swimming should be fine. Cycling could potentially be somewhat riskier due to the fact that sitting increases spinal compression and when you lean over, that stresses the disc as well. If you do bike, try to sit up straight and accentuate the lumbar lordosis periodically during your ride.

Also, I usually suggest that people perform a press-up/extension exercise between sets of squats, deadlifts and, good-mornings to offset some of the increased spinal disc loading that may result from these exercises. It would be a good idea to do this after bent rows and ab work as well.

Extension exercises can be performed lying face down or standing. While lying face down, put your hands in a push-up position and press yourself up while keeping your lower abdomen and pelvis on the ground. Hold the top position for a couple seconds and then slowly lower yourself down. Do a set of ten. In the standing version, place your hands around the top of your pelvis and lean backwards.

I’ll see if I can scan some pictures in later.

Take care,